Stress, a quick overview:
levels have increased but most people have not developed a strategy to
deal with it.
- On a cellular
level, stress uses the very chemicals that would otherwise be used for
growth and maintenance of the body.
stress weakens us and much if not most illness stems from stress.
stress is often as harmful as actual stress.
is our body's response to fear or a threatening situation. It signals danger
and prepares our body for
or flight. It is a feeling of nervousness or worry. It's what helps
us to not make the same mistake twice or to avoid or be careful when performing
a risky or dangerous task. When people have a high level of anxiety most
of the time for no apparent reason, then it can be a problem. Most of us
have more anxiety
than we realize. One of the worst prices of technology is increasing levels
Most people suffer from some trauma
shock" that has been induced by social and environmental stresses.
Any city is a large collection of potential stressors. You have the mass
media, mass transportation, vast technological innovations, and intense
inter-personal stimulation. And you always seem to have a deadline. We
live in a deadline-oriented society.
An increased level of stress causes
learning ability, inhibits the immune system and increases homocysteine
and bad cholesterol
levels. Chronic stress actually ages the brain. The
increasing complexity and density of society causes increased levels of
stress, which inevitably affects our behavior and well being. The
National Institute of Mental Health has determined that as much as
70% of all illness is stress related, at a cost of $700 billion annually.
Yet the average education included little or no reference to stress or
There is no single element to the stress
response. Rather, stress is an interrelated mixture of external world,
mind, body reactions and feelings. Become acquainted with the common ingredients
of stress, and investigate what are your own stressors,
which are those triggers
of stress that kick off your stress reaction. Then you can learn how to
change those ingredients in order to reduce your
level of stress.
Stress can be viewed as a delicate
balance between the demands presented to us as we grasp them, and
how we conceive our resources, our ability to react to those demands.
It is the perception of these components that apparently triggers
the release of cortisol.
The primary purpose of cortisol
in mammals is basically to mobilize the body's physiological processes
Demands made upon us can be from either
an internal or an external source. Demands that have to do with every day
living or with a life-long burden. Demands can be minuscule and numerous
or monumental and sparse. A large variety of demands tax our strengths
and reserves, but, let us not forget, they also inspire our thoughts and
can cause us to achieve great deeds.
can originate from physiological or psychological sources. Attitude has
a strong bearing on how we behave and how we think about ourselves. If
we are in good health and generally good physical condition we will most
likely behave in a confident, in control, manner, and we can approach demands
with a positive enthusiastic attitude. Conversely, illness or run down
physical condition can lead to hesitant or procrastinating behaviors, and
we will approach demands with a negative
or how we feel about ourselves has been shown to be a core element of the
stress response. If we have a poor self-image, it can easily result in
us feeling bad about ourselves, and lead to ineffective behaviors (such
as postponing actions that we really ought to do immediately). Yet self-esteem
is also influenced by successfully achieving actions and fulfilling demands.
A person with low
self-esteem has been shown to have higher levels of cortisol
in the blood stream.
overload comes from work environments in which you are faced with time
pressure, excessive and diverse responsibility and accountability. Often
times there is a lack of managerial or subordinate support, excessive role
expectations from yourself, or from your superiors, or others. So that
Overload comes when the work environment places demands upon you beyond
your available resources. Research seems to indicate that increasingly
many jobs are deemed to be more stressful than is healthy for the employee.
This is especially true of increased organizational accountability.
In some occupations there is a virtually damming expectation for perfection.
Academic overload comes when teachers
experience increased responsibilities, and then face increasing classroom
violence, all at the same time. The students are pressured to compete to
do well academically to achieve honor status that colleges, graduate, and
professional schools in order to even be considered for admission. Suicide
among teenagers is higher than it has ever been.
Even in the home there is domestic
overload resulting from increasing cost of living, crowding, child rearing
and family obligations, domestic chores, and repairs, yard work, a multiplicity
of ever more complex appliances and electronic gadgets to be operated with
intrinsic noise pollution. Many of us are unaware that one of the general
areas of stress is frustration.
Stress occurs when natural or desired
behaviors or goals are inhibited or thwarted and you are blocked from doing
something you want to do. In an external way we respond emotionally to
frustration with anger or aggression. Especially if we are the repressive
type who internalizes emotion, we may become self destructive, take up
addictive bad habits, or become ill.
Bruce Lipton and others have learned that our cells cannot be in growth
and protection modes at the same time. Too much stress can bring about
increased blood pressure, hypertension,
which may lead to increased incidents of cardiovascular diseases; increased
occurrence of gastrointestinal problems; increased instances of sleeping
disorders; symptoms of irritability, restlessness, depression, higher levels
of anxiety, as well as diminishing sexual drive, and various other
Thomas H.Holmes and Richard H. Rahe,
at the University of Washington School Of Medicine, developed a Social
Readjustment Rating Scale correlating life events with illness in more
than 5,000 patients. The conclusion was that stress from problems with
money, relationships, and living conditions directly increased serious
Traumatic life events can and do fracture
lives. According to Dr. Marlene Steinberg, in her book, The
Stranger in the Mirror, Disassociation is our way of withdrawing from
unpleasantness. Dissociation "is a healthy adaptive defense used almost
universally by people in response to overwhelming stress or life-threatening
So, if you've experienced some aspects
of dissociation, that's good. What's bad is if these characteristics are
present all of the time in extreme ways. Dissociation
can be a person's standard response to trauma, its symptoms are a common
reaction to such life threatening events as a car accident or such intense,
lasting traumas as rape or military type combat experiences. People who
suffer from dissociative symptoms, experience inner pain that interfere
with work or relationships.
It was once thought that dissociation was
relatively uncommon, yet it is reaching epidemic proportions. As many as
1 out of 10 suffer from this common but elusive disorder, which means it
may affect 30 million individuals in North America alone. Dissociation
is probably as widespread as anxiety and depression, according to Dr. Steinberg.
There is a strong possibility that you
or someone you know suffers from some dissociative condition. Because dissociative
experiences are often illusive and hard to describe, they are rarely reported
to therapists. The sufferer usually goes untreated or is treated for a
symptom of the disorder, such as depression or panic attacks. The condition
is often misdiagnosed,
Like anxiety or depression there is a spectrum
of Disassociation, and its symptoms are often hidden and undiagnosed. One
of the most important is the belief that children would remember such occasions.
In fact, the amnesia of dissociation often prevents these memories from
surfacing. This abuse most often occurs in alcoholic households. The effects
of abuse can be complicated by having occurred in more than one generation
in a family.
Fascination by reports of alien abductions,
out-of-body experiences, and near-death experiences can sometimes be manifestations
of dissociation. The alien abductions can turn out to be subverted memories
of childhood abuse.
Symptoms may be benign or more serious.
People subjected to extreme trauma, or prolonged stress or abuse, or recurrent
abuse ar more likely to show symptoms. Survivors of a serious accident,
abuse, or combat usually experience some form of post-traumatic problems
like memory gaps, or being unable to feel close or feel safe. You peer
into the mirror and have trouble recognizing yourself. You can't remember
whether you actually did something . . . or only thought you did. You feel
as though you're just going through the motions of life.
"We shut down disconnect,
Feel like we are outside ourself, depersonalized. These are all
of dissociation, a fragmented state of consciousness involving feelings
of disconnection and even
Our perception acts as an imaginary yet
distorting lens through which we view both the Demands presented,
as well as the Resources available, to us. What we perceive is interpreted
in our brain and translated to our thoughts, behaviors. It is our perception
that holds the key to the way in which we tint the demands we face, and
how we evaluate our
available resources to fend them off. In fact, it is actually the perceived
level of stess rather than the actual level that our body responds
to. For example on a crowded commuter train, the people who get a seat
have much less measurable stress than those who stand.
Demands that are perceived as overwhelming
may cause us to enter into a vicious feedback loop. Our thoughts play tricks
on us, leading to anxiety, which in turn brings about a new wave of disturbing
thoughts. This leads to erratic behavior, causing unfulfilled demands,
which leads to a new wave of disturbing thoughts, etc. If we change our
thoughts, our perception of the demands or of our resources we can break
this loop and engage the relaxation
Dr James B. Calhoun and associates
at the National Institute Of Mental
Health ran an experiment from 1968-72 with mice that were allowed to
overpopulate their space, even though they had plenty of nourishment. When
the physical space was filled and all meaningful social roles within the
groups were occupied, that was the beginning of violence and disruption
of social organization, according to Calhoun.
Dominant males started breaking down,
weary of defending their territory, and females started becoming more aggressive,
chasing the young out of their nests prematurely. Young adult males ceased
to struggle for a territory of their own and became recluses or formed
large motionless aggregates farthest from food and water as did the young
adult females. Interest in courtship and mating was lost and although they
were physically perfect specimens eventually they all died.
Oftentimes when people living in a
small town go to a city, they comment on the unfriendly, impersonal ways
of the city. You often read of someone being hurt and no one helping...
a shocking lack of concern for the welfare of others. This impersonal attitude
is probably another example of a disassociative
coping mechanism, which is the result of stress overload. It is a way of
coping with the bombardment of excessive social stimuli, and is a defense
mechanism that sometimes protects psychological well being by shielding
the person from all but the most necessary environmental demands. Also,there
are studies indicating that violence
in the media conditions us toward indifference. Clearly we need to
cultivate the skills of stress
management and self-awareness.